Archive for the ‘Psalm 37’ Tag

Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before the Seventh Sunday After the Epiphany, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Finding of the Silver Cup

Above:  Finding of the Silver Cup

Image in the Public Domain

Free to Serve God, Part I

FEBRUARY 21, 22, and 23, 2019

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The Collect:

O Lord Jesus, make us instruments of your peace,

that where there is hatred, we may sow love,

where there is injury, pardon,

where there is despair, hope.

Grant, O divine master, that we may seek

to console, to understand, and to love in your name,

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 25

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 43:16-34 (Thursday)

Genesis 44:1-17 (Friday)

Genesis 44:18-34 (Saturday)

Psalm 37:1-11, 39-40 (All Days)

Romans 8:1-11 (Thursday)

1 John 2:12-17 (Friday)

Luke 12:57-59 (Saturday)

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If anyone had a legitimate reason to harbor resentment, Joseph son of Jacob did.  Siblings had, out of jealousy of him and annoyance with him (he was an insufferable brat for a while), faked his death and sold him into slavery.  Joseph had also spent years in prison for a crime he had not committed.  Decades later, when he had a position in the Egyptian government, Joseph had an opportunity to take revenge.  As one reads in Genesis 45, he chose to do otherwise.

One theme in the pericope from Romans 8 is liberation by God from the power of sin (yet not the struggle with sin) to serve and obey God, to pursue spiritual purposes.  The reading from 1 John, with its warning against loving the world, fits well with that passage.  That caution is not a call for serial Christian contrariness.  No, St. Augustine of Hippo understood the passage well.  He asked,

Why should I not love what God has made?

The great theologian answered his own question this way:

God does not forbid one to love these things but to love them to the point of finding one’s beatitude in them.

–Quoted in Raymond E. Brown, The Epistles of John (1982), pages 324-325

The quest for selfish gain, a theme extant in more than one of the readings for these days, is a journey toward harm of others and of oneself.  That which we do to others, we do also to ourselves.  There might be a delayed delivery of “what comes around, goes around,” but the proverbial cows will come home.  It is better to seek the common god and to forgo vengeance, to retire grudges and to build up one’s society, community, and congregation.  One can do that while loving the world, but not to the point of, in the words of St. Augustine of Hippo, finding one’s benediction in it.  No, we should find one’s benediction in God alone.  As we read in Psalm 27:7-9 (The Book of Common Prayer, 1979):

Be still before the LORD

and wait patiently for him.

Do not fret yourself over the one who prospers,

the one who succeeds in evil schemes.

Refrain from anger, leave rage alone;

do not fret yourself; it leads only to evil.

Here ends the lesson.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 27, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR CAMPBELL AINGER, ENGLISH EDUCATOR, SCHOLAR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT AEDESIUS, PRIEST AND MISSIONARY; AND SAINT FRUDENTIUS, FIRST BISHOP OF AXUM AND ABUNA OF THE ETHIOPIAN ORTHODOX TEWAHEDO CHURCH

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH GRIGG, ENGLISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/10/27/free-to-serve-god-part-i/

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Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After the Fourth Sunday After Epiphany, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   4 comments

Millet_Gleaners

Above:  The Gleaners, by Jean-Francois Millet

Image in the Public Domain

Mutual Responsibility and Faithful Actions

FEBRUARY 3-5, 2020

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The Collect:

Holy God, you confound the world’s wisdom in giving your kingdom to the lowly and the pure in heart.

Give us such a hunger and thirst for justice, and perseverance in striving for peace,

that in our words and deeds we may see the life of your Son, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23

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The Assigned Readings:

Ruth 1:1-18 (Monday)

Ruth 2:1-16 (Tuesday)

Ruth 3:1-13; 4:13-22 (Wednesday)

Psalm 37:1-17 (all days)

Philemon 1-25 (Monday)

James 5:1-6 (Tuesday)

Luke 6:17-26 (Wednesday)

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Be still before the Lord and wait for him;

do not fret over those that prosper as they follow their evil schemes.

Refrain from anger and abandon wrath;

do not fret let you be moved to do evil.

–Psalm 37:7-8, Common Worship (2000)

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And sometimes one ought to act faithfully, not just be still faithfully.  In the case of the Book of Ruth, for example, people were active, not passive.  There was more going on than children’s Sunday School lessons (and even many, if not most, adult Sunday School lessons) admit, for that activity entailed seduction before love became a reality.  As Jennifer Wright Knust writes in Unprotected Texts:

To the writer of Ruth, family can consist of an older woman and her beloved immigrant daughter-in-law, women can easily raise children on their own, and men can be seduced if it serves the interests of women.

–page 33

And, as Krust writes on page 35, the emotional bond and subsequent covenant between Ruth and Naomi helped both of them and Israel as a whole.  I add that it has helped many subsequent generations all over the world due its role in the genealogy of Jesus.

Family–not in the sense of marriage or ancestry–unites the readings for these three days.  The ethic of mutual responsibility (part of the Law of Moses) runs through the New Testament also.  The more fortunate, who ought not to depend on their wealth in lieu of God, have responsibilities to the less fortunate.  Philemon had responsibilities to Onesimus, who was not necessarily a slave or even a fugitive.  (A very close reading of the text–one passage in particular–in the Greek raises serious questions about the traditional understanding).

This notion of mutual responsibility and the opinion of wealth one finds in Luke and James are profoundly counter-cultural in my North American setting, where rugged individualism and the quest for wealth are accepted values.  Yet with mutual responsibility comes inderdependence.  And the quest for enough wealth for one’s present and future needs, although laudable, becomes insatiable greed for some people.  Such greed is socially destructive, denying others enough.  There is always enough for everyone in God’s economy; scarcity is a feature of human, sinful economic systems.

May we, by grace, act faithfully and effectively to reduce such sinfulness where we are.  And, if we have not fallen into greed, may we not do so.  If we have, may we confess and repent of it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 8, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILFRED THOMASON GRENFELL, MEDICAL MISSIONARY TO NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRIDGET OF SWEDEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF ERIK ROUTLEY, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM DWIGHT PORTER BLISS, EPISCOPAL PRIEST; AND RICHARD THEODORE ELY, ECONOMIST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/10/18/mutual-responsibility-and-faithful-actions/

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Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C   5 comments

Above:  Moravian Logo in Stained Glass

Image Source = JJackman

Mercy, Judgment, and Grace

FEBRUARY 24, 2019

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Genesis 45:1-15 (New Revised Standard Version):

Joseph could no longer control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out,

Send everyone away from me.

So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. Joseph said to his brothers,

I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?

But his brothers could not answer him, so dismayed were they at his presence.

Then Joseph said to his brothers,

Come closer to me.

And they came closer. He said,

I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are five more years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, “Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay. You shall settle in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, as well as your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. I will provide for you there– since there are five more years of famine to come– so that you and your household, and all that you have, will not come to poverty.” And now your eyes and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see that it is my own mouth that speaks to you. You must tell my father how greatly I am honored in Egypt, and all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here.

Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, while Benjamin wept upon his neck. And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them; and after that his brothers talked with him.

Psalm 37:1-12 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Do not fret yourself because of evildoers;

do not be jealous of those who do no wrong.

2 For they shall soon whither like the grass,

and like the green grass they fade away.

3 Put your trust in the LORD and do good,

dwell in the land and feed on its riches.

Take delight in the LORD,

and he shall give you your heart’s desire.

Commit your way to the LORD and put your trust in him,

and he will bring it to pass.

He will make your righteousness as clear as the light

and your just dealing as the noonday.

Be still and wait for the LORD

and wait patiently for him.

8  Do not fret yourselves over the one who prospers,

the one who succeeds in evil schemes.

9  Refrain from anger, leave rage alone;

do not fret yourself; it leads only to evil.

10 For evildoers shall be cut off,

but those who wait upon the LORD shall possess the land.

11  In a little while the wicked shall be no more;

you shall search out their place, but they will not be there.

12  But the lowly shall possess the land;

they will delight in abundance of peace.

41 But the deliverance of the righteous comes from the LORD;

he is their stronghold in time of trouble.

42 The LORD will help them and rescue them;

he will rescue them from the wicked and deliver them,

because they seek refuge in him.

1 Corinthians 15:35-49 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Someone may ask,

How are dead people raised, and what sort of body do they have when they come back?

These are stupid questions.  Whatever you sow in the ground has to die before it is given new life and the thing that you sow is not what is going to come; you sow  a bare grain, say of wheat or something like that, and then God gives it the sort of body that he has chosen:  each sort of seed gets its own sort of body.

Everything that is flesh is not the same flesh:  there is human flesh, animals’ flesh, the flesh of birds and the flesh of fish.  Then there are heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the heavenly bodies have a beauty of their own and the earthly bodies a different one.  The sun has its brightness, the moon a different brightness, and the stars a different brightness, and the stars differ from each other in brightness.  It is the same with the resurrection of the dead:  the thing that is sown is perishable but what is raised is imperishable; the thing that is sown is contemptible but what is raised is glorious; the thing that is sown is weak but what is raised is powerful; when it is sown it embodies the soul, when it is raised it embodies the spirit.

If the soul has its own embodiment, so dies the spirit have its own embodiment.  The first man, Adam, as scripture says, became a living soul; but the last Adam has become a life-giving spirit.  That is, first the one with the soul, not the spirit, and after that, the one with the spirit.  The first man, being from the earth, is earthly by nature; the second man is from heaven.  As this earthly man was, so are we on earth; and as the heavenly man is, so are we in heaven.  And we, who have been modelled on the earthly man, will be modelled on the heavenly man.

Luke 6:27-38 (The Jerusalem Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

But I say this to you who are listening:  Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who treat you badly.  To the man who slaps you on one cheek, present the other cheek too; to the man who takes your cloak from you, do not refuse your tunic.  Give to everyone who asks you, and do not ask for your property back from the man who robs you.  Treat others as you would like them to treat you.  If you love those who love you, what thanks can you expect?  Even sinners love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who do good to you, what thanks can you expect?  For even sinners do that much.  And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what thanks can you expect?  Even sinners lend to sinners to get back the same amount.  Instead, love your enemies and do good, and lend without any hope of return.  You will have a great reward, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.

Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate.  Do not judge, and you will not be judged yourselves; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned yourselves; grant pardon, and you will be pardoned.  Give, and there will be gifts for you:  a full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap; because the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given back.

The Collect:

O Lord, you have taught us that without love whatever we do is worth nothing: Send your Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts your greatest gift, which is love, the true bond of peace and of all virtue, without which whoever lives is accounted dead before you. Grant this for the sake of your only Son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/07/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-seventh-sunday-after-epiphany/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/07/prayer-of-confession-for-the-seventh-sunday-after-epiphany/

 Prayer of Dedication:

 http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/07/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-seventh-sunday-after-epiphany/

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 Rise, heart, thy Lord is risen.  Sing his praise

Without delays,

Who takes thee by the hand, that thou likewise

With him may’st rise;

That, as his death calcined thee to dust,

His life may make thee gold, and much more just….

–George Herbert

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Joseph forgave his brothers who sold him into slavery.  God, he said, used that dastardly deed to help many others years after the fact.  Nevertheless, forgiving those who had sold him into slavery seems like a spiritual feat under my circumstance.  It is possible only by grace.  Being better than others might expect–doing more than one must–being as merciful as possible by grace–is the unifying core of this Sunday’s readings.  Dong this consists of nothing less than applying to others the same love one has received from God.  Thus grace is supposed to beget more grace.

We have a model–Jesus–to follow.  We have his ethical teachings and his life.  And he have his resurrection.  People murdered him.  He forgave them.  He even interceded for them.  Peter denied Jesus, who forgave him.  Jesus is the “man of heaven” whose image each of us can bear.  Bearing our Lord’s image, forgiving our enemies, refraining from baseless judgments–these are possible by grace and free will, the latter of which exists because of grace.  So these are possible ultimately by grace.  These can be very difficult tasks, and I have not mastered them.  But I have learned them better than before.  And I look forward to becoming more proficient at them.  Moral perfectionism is quite unrealistic, for flawed beings can never achieve that goal.  But we can do better.  And God–in Christ–offers to help us do so.

I have known this help many times.  During one particular season of my life I detected much sudden grace.  It was an extremely difficult time, so the grace was that much more obvious.  My spiritual life improved greatly without much effort on my part.  I found that my internal reality had changed for the better overnight.  I did not object; I cooperated instead.  And my willingness to extend mercy to my enemies came in time–not immediately, to be sure; it is still coming.  God, I perceive, meets us where we are and carries us as far as we need to go.  Our task is to cooperate.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 14, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FULBERT OF CHARTRES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF EDWARD THOMAS DEMBY, EPISCOPAL SUFFRAGAN BISHOP OF ARKANSAS, AND HENRY BEARD DELANY, EPISCOPAL SUFFRAGAN BISHOP OF NORTH CAROLINA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE FREDERICK HANDEL, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT WANDREGISILUS OF NORMANDY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT, AND SAINT LAMBERT OF LYONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND BISHOP

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/11/05/mercy-judgment-and-grace/

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Week of 5 Epiphany: Wednesday, Year 2   7 comments

Above:  King Solomon Meets the Queen of Sheba

Image Source = Richardfabi

Regarding the Common

FEBRUARY 12, 2020

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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1 Kings 10:1-10, 13 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The queen of Sheba heard of Solomon’s fame, through the name of the LORD, and she came to test him with hard questions.  She arrived in Jerusalem with a very large retinue, with camels bearing spices, a great quantity of gold, and precious stones.  When she came to Solomon, she asked him all she had in mind.  Solomon had answers for all her questions; there was nothing that the king did not know, [nothing] to which he could not give her an answer.  When the queen of Sheba observed all of Solomon’s wisdom, and the palace he had built, the fare of his table, the seating of his courtiers, the service and attire of his attendants, and his wine service, and the burnt offerings that he offered at the House of the LORD, she was left breathless.

She said to the king,

The report  heard in my own land about you and your wisdom was true.  But I did not believe the reports until I came and saw with my own eyes that even the half had been told me; your wisdom and wealth surpass the reports that I heard.  How fortunate are your men and how fortunate are these your courtiers, who are always  in attendance on you and can hear your wisdom!  Praised be the LORD your God, who delighted in you and set you on the throne of Israel.  It is because of the LORD’s everlasting love for Israel that He made you king to administer justice and righteousness.

She presented the king with one hundred and twenty talents of gold, and a large quantity of spices, and precious stones.   Never again did such a vast quantity of spices arrive as that which the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon….King Solomon, in turn, gave the queen of Sheba everything she wanted and asked for, in addition to what King Solomon gave her out of his royal bounty.  Then she and her attendants left and returned to her own land.

Psalm 37:1-7, 32-33, 41-42 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Do not fret yourself because of evildoers;

do not be jealous of those who do no wrong.

2 For they shall soon whither like the grass,

and like the green grass they fade away.

3 Put your trust in the LORD and do good,

dwell in the land and feed on its riches.

Take delight in the LORD,

and he shall give you your heart’s desire.

Commit your way to the LORD and put your trust in him,

and he will bring it to pass.

He will make your righteousness as clear as the light

and your just dealing as the noonday.

Be still and wait for the LORD

and wait patiently for him.

32  The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom,

and their tongue speaks what is right.

33  The law of their God is in their heart,

and their footsteps shall not falter.

41 But the deliverance of the righteous comes from the LORD;

he is their stronghold in time of trouble.

42 The LORD will help them and rescue them;

he will rescue them from the wicked and deliver them,

because they seek refuge in him.

Mark 7:14-23 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then he called the crowd close to him again, and spoke to them,

Listen to me now, all of you, and understand this.  There is nothing outside a man which can enter into him and make him “common”.  It is the things which come out of a man that make him “common”!

Later, when he had gone indoors away from the crowd, his disciples asked him about this parable.

“Oh, are you as dull as they are?”

he said.

Can’t you see that anything that goes into a man from outside cannot make him “common” or unclean?  You see, it doesn’t go into his heart, but into his stomach, and passes out of the body altogether, so that all food is clean enough.  But,

he went on,

whatever comes out of a man, that is what makes a man “common” or unclean.  For it is from inside, from men’s hearts and minds, that evil thoughts arise–lust, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly!  All these evil things come from inside a man and make him unclean!

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The Collect:

Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of that abundant life which you have made known to us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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A Related Post:

Week of 5 Epiphany:  Wednesday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/14/week-of-5-epiphany-wednesday-year-1/

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The author of 1 Kings 10 means for us to admire the wealth and wisdom of Solomon.  In this account Solomon receives the esteemed and wealthy Queen of Sheba.  Sheba, for those of you who wonder, was probably Sabea, located where present-day Yemen occupies space on the world map.  Yemen, of course, has fallen on hard times, with its combination of high illiteracy, poverty, fertility, and social frustration on one hand and little opportunity for economic development on the other.  But it fared much better in ancient times.

Imagine reading or hearing this story while living in exile in the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  “Those were the days!” people must have said in Hebrew.  Or imagine reading or hearing this account after the Persians allowed exiled Jews to return to their homeland, then a poor place in a backwater province.  “Those were days!” people must have said in Hebrew upon pondering Solomon’s prestige and wealth.

But I am an American.  As such, I am an heir of a revolution.  (Historians dispute the precise definition of the American Revolution–indeed a good question–but I am an heir of the American Revolution.)  To the extent that I am a monarchist, I am a constitutional one.  As an heir of the American Revolution, I assume the veracity and wisdom of certain Enlightenment theories of governance, and divine right monarchy is not one of them.  Nevertheless, I do not expect to detect foreshadowing of Montesquieu and Locke in the Hebrew Scriptures, for I know better than to look for them there.

For some germane background to 1 Kings 10, let us turn to 1 Kings 6:38-7:1, which tell us that the construction of the Temple took seven years and the building of Solomon’s palace required thirteen years.  The Temple was splendid, as the detailed descriptions of it and its furnishings in 1 Kings indicate.  How ornate, then, was Solomon’s palace, which took six more years to construct?  And who paid for all this?  You, O reader, can guess, can you not?  The taxpayers of the Kingdom of Israel did.  They also paid for the upkeep of the palace and for the royal wine.

1 Kings 10 speaks of how wise, wealthy, and respected Solomon was.  In the next chapter, however, the tone of the narrative changes.  That is where the Canadian Anglican lectionary will take us next, so I will reserve a discussion of those details for then.

1 Kings 10 makes clear that Solomon was most uncommon, and that this was supposed to be a compliment.  Being uncommon was a point of pride to the Pharisees.  To be uncommon was to be pure, and to be common was to be defiled, or impure.  In fact, the standard English translation in the reading from Mark is “defile,” but J. B. Phillips cut to the chase and rendered the Greek text as “make common.”  Haughty Pharisees delighted in not being like other people.  This is not necessarily a fault in a person, as I ponder the concept as an abstract notion, but I am not discussing an abstraction.  No, I am referring to a concrete situation.  Only those with a certain level of wealth could afford to keep the purity codes the Pharisees advocated, so their piety was one to which most people, who were poor, had no hope of achieving.  Thus the Pharisaic piety Jesus criticized was one which marginalized the vast majority of people.

It is no wonder that there was a rebellion after Solomon died.  His grandeur came at a cost to his subjects.  And I understand why Jesus disagreed with so many Pharisees.  Furthermore, as an heir of the American Revolution, which, ironically, colonial elites led, I like the common, to an extent.  The Revolution did lead in time to the extension of voting rights without regard to property, for example.  And the ideals of the American Revolution did bring into sharp relief the hypocrisy of maintaining slavery.  Furthermore, another ideal of the Revolution was that, given opportunity and motivation, one can improve himself and his social station.  So there was not an acceptance of the lowest common denominator embedded in the ideals of the Revolution.  To the extent that one considers the lowest common denominator “common,” I do not like the common.  However, so far as one shuns the systems of firmly fixed social orders and deference to elites, I do like the common.

There is great dignity embedded in every human being by virtue of the image of God present in each of us.  So may we not look down upon others, for they are also God-bearers–as much as Solomon was, the Pharisees were, and the vast population of people who, for financial reasons, could not keep their piety, were.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/01/19/regarding-the-common/

Week of 3 Epiphany: Friday, Year 1   16 comments

Above:  Mustard Plant

Diversity Within the Kingdom of God

FEBRUARY 1, 2019

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Hebrews 10:32-39 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to abuse and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated.  For you had compassion on the the prisoners, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.  Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.  For you have need of endurance, so that you may do the will of God and receive what is promised.

For yet a little while,

and the coming one shall come and shall not tarry;

but my righteous one shall live by faith,

and if he shrinks back,

my soul has no pleasure in him.

But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and keep their souls.

Psalm 37:1-7, 24-25, 41-42 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Do not fret yourself because of evildoers;

do not be jealous of those who do no wrong.

2 For they shall soon whither like the grass,

and like the green grass they fade away.

3 Put your trust in the LORD and do good,

dwell in the land and feed on its riches.

4 Take delight in the LORD,

and he shall give you your heart’s desire.

5 Commit your way to the LORD and put your trust in him,

and he will bring it to pass.

6 He will make your righteousness as clear as the light

and your just dealing as the noonday.

7 Be still and wait for the LORD

and wait patiently for him.

24 Our steps are directed by the LORD;

he strengthens those in whose way he delights.

25 If they stumble, they shall not fall headlong,

for the LORD holds them by the hand.

41 But the deliverance of the righteous comes from the LORD;

he is their stronghold in time of trouble.

42 The LORD will help them and rescue them;

he will rescue them from the wicked and deliver them,

because they seek refuge in him.

Mark 4:26-34 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And he said,

The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed upon the ground, and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he knows not how.  The earth produces of itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.  But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.

And he said,

With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it?  It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.

With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.

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The Collect:

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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The mustard bush is not an especially handsome plant, although it can be a large one–as tall as ten feet.  If Jesus had wanted to speak of the kingdom of God–and by extension the body of followers–we call it the Church–in handsome and impressive terms, he could have used the image of a mighty cedar of Lebanon.  But no, he used the analogy of a plant many considered to be huge weed.

This topic requires further investigation.

I write this devotional from northeastern Georgia, U.S.A.  Just a few miles away from where I sit one can see kudzu.  The plant grows and grows then grows some more.  It takes over.  The mustard bush is similar in that, once it starts growing, it continues.

And a variety of creatures take shelter within a mustard bush.  The heterogeneous nature of the denizens is important within this parable.  So, if we accept the mustard plant as an analogy of the Christian Church, we need to leave purity tests behind and remember that we ought not greet just people like ourselves.  This can be truly difficult, for even those of us who think ourselves fairly broad-minded like those similar to ourselves.

So God plants seed and the Church takes root.  Then the Church spreads, and people cannot prevent this.  God is in control, and the Church is home to varied population.  Within that diversity, however, is the commonality of faith tested by endurance.  The Wisdom of Solomon 3:6 reminds us that gold is tested in the fire.  The context for this statement is a section about how the “souls of the righteous are in the hands of God.”

So, my fellow birds, would you rather take shelter in a mighty cedar of Lebanon or in a pesky mustard bush?

KRT